Top 2012 Executive Career Search Mistakes

The JMJ Phillip Retained Search Division has compiled a list of the 2012 worst mistakes witnessed during an executive career search. While this list only demonstrates a few key points, these are often the easiest to fix if a candidate takes the time to properly prepare for an interview prior to making decisions and taking action. Statistics illustrate if a candidate is not receiving an offer for every three interviews they should take a step back and consider what went wrong by doing a personal assessment. This has been shown to result in a far more successful career search.


1.       Companies know how smart you are:       The fatal mistake that tops the 2012 list is the “let me show you how smart I am” executive. When interviewing with prospective companies take into consideration that if you made it to the interview, the company already thinks highly of you. While showing a certain level of confidence is important, remember you have to walk a fine line not to become “the smartest guy in the room.”  When the executive team or board hiring committee is evaluating someone, they are seeking extremely intelligent professionals whom others will want to work with. If you pull out your fifty “really important” questions on the first interview there is a good chance you will not be invited back for a second interview.  No one likes a ‘Know-it-All’. It is also not necessary to point out that you went to a top 25 graduate school; they know this already and may have even chosen to bring you in because of it.


2.       Price gouging:        People like to do business with those they can trust. There have been many instances this year where JMJ Phillip has experienced a candidate tell the executive search consultant, or even fill out an employment application with a desired salary amount, but after an interview they ask for a considerable amount more. While this is understandable when the job requirements or situation changes, it is not an acceptable reason when a candidate feels they can get a substantially larger compensation package. This usually happens pre-offer and at some point during the first or second interview once the company has displayed great interest in onboarding the candidate. Once the candidate finds out the company is really interested, all of a sudden they are asking for 20-30% more than they originally asked for.  JMJ Phillip has found no cases in 2012 where this ended up in a successful hire.



Being difficult:      Most companies understand an executive’s busy schedule. However, things go south when a company goes out of their way to accommodate a busy executive and they either cancel at the last minute or constantly reschedule. Once the company decides not to pursue the candidate suddenly the candidate wants to “make things work.” At that point it is too late. In 2012 companies have become very picky on who they decide to pursue. The lack of willingness to make an interview happen can often be taken as reluctance to make a career change or worse, a lack of interest in their company.


4.       Honesty:         The fall out of the Yahoo CEO being ousted for questionable items on his resume introduced companies picking over career histories with a fine tooth comb. You can bet a company is going to do exhaustive background checks, income verification, education verification and job tenure verification.  Do not say you have a degree if you are four credits away from having one. It is equally inappropriate to say you only need fifteen credits to complete a degree if you need sixty. Also, be precise with your job dates.  Stretching job dates to fill voids will be caught and brings integrity into question.



5.       Lack of energy:      If you have the title of Director or above, people see you as a leader. If you are a leader the last thing the hiring committee wants to see is lethargy.  In 2012, the markets continue to become more and more competitive leaving no time for a low energy executive. Many executives are being brought in as change agents, and with change the company needs someone with energy, excitement, and motivation. We often joke pre-interview and tell candidates to stop and get a Red Bull or a Quad Americano as a way of saying “show them you are bringing some energy to their organization.” Lack of energy and excitement is also taken as a sign of someone not being interested in a position or company which is extremely visceral to the executive hiring committee.  


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